Nelson conference centre no problem

Tourism commentators are confident the new conference centre in Nelson will not detract from Marlborough's conference business.

The new conference centre, with theatre space for up to 700 people, has been added to the Rutherford Hotel Nelson, which has more than 100 rooms in the city centre.

The in-house conference centre is seen as a valuable addition to the Nelson conference business because it can cater for large corporate groups who want to stay in the same hotel.

Destination Marlborough general manager Tracy Johnston said accommodation was only one small part of attracting conferences, events and meetings, but there was a gap in the conference market that Marlborough could not fill.

"Marlborough is a compelling conference destination, with attractive activities and options for partners and pre- and post-conference holidays," she said.

"We believe there is a market growth potential and if we had a large-scale property it would attract business to the region."

Marlborough District Council executive projects manager Jamie Lyall said the council would love to see a 100-plus-room hotel in Blenheim to help attract more and larger conferences, but there was not enough demand for most of the year.

The council is continuing talks with the Scenic Hotel Group, which had an agreement to add 44 rooms to its Henry St hotel as part of its contract to run the Marlborough Convention Centre, he said.

Though the hotel's existing 56 rooms had been upgraded last year and the public areas of the hotel are being refurbished, the 44 new rooms have not gone ahead because the company said it was not viable.

Mr Lyall would not go into detail of their discussions with the Scenic Hotel Group, but their contract was not up for renewal until December next year, he said. "Technically, yes, they didn't live up to their end of the contract, but that puts council in a stronger position in negotiations."

The in-house conference centre at the Rutherford Hotel in Nelson did not change Marlborough's profile on the national conference circuit, he said.

The Marlborough Convention Centre targets conferences of 100 to 150 delegates, a size that accounts for 80 per cent of conferences and meetings in New Zealand.

The Marlborough Express